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Lesson Plan

Let's Talk About Stories: Shared Discussion With Amazing Grace

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Let's Talk About Stories: Shared Discussion With Amazing Grace

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 30- to 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Emily Manning

Emily Manning

Denton, Texas


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: Read and Discuss the Story

Session 2: Picture Walk and Student Response

Session 3: Small-Group Conversations

Session 4: Whole-Class Discussion

Session 5: Doodle Art


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Engage in quality discussion in small groups and with the whole class by generating and evaluating questions to find the ones that will lead to thoughtful discussion

  • Make connections with the interpretations of their peers through small-group and whole-class literature discussions

  • Use evidence from the text to support opinions

  • Develop a critical awareness of themes presented in picture books and how those themes connect to themselves, other people, and the world

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Session 1: Read and Discuss the Story

1. Gather the class together so that you can see all students and they can see you. Create an intimate setting so students can clearly hear the story and see the pictures. Show students the cover of Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and ask them what they see on the cover. Students can make observations such as, "There is a girl on the cover," or inferences like, "I think the girl will do something amazing in this story."

2. Tell students that you will share your thoughts about the book as you read it aloud. Their job is to listen to the story. Later on in the session, they will have the chance to share their ideas and reactions too.

3. During reading, stop three to five times to model your thinking. Your think-alouds should be brief so as not to interrupt the flow of the story. In addition, they should encourage critical thinking and discussion of the themes within the text. Here are two ideas for think-alouds for the book Amazing Grace:
  • The text says, "Grace kept her hand up." Teacher think-aloud: "Wow. It seems like Grace doesn't let other people change her mind. She is very determined. She must have a lot of self-confidence."

  • At the end of the book, Natalie tells Grace she was fantastic as Peter Pan. Teacher think-aloud: "I'm glad that Grace didn't listen to Natalie at the beginning of the story. I think that Natalie learned an important lesson by watching Grace."
4. After you have finished reading, ask students to share their reactions to the book. What did they think of the book? What surprised them about the book? What was their favorite part? What did they think of the main character?

5. To end this session, ask students to write or draw the thoughts they shared with the whole class in their journal or on a blank piece of paper. Visit with students who did not share with the whole class to hear their thoughts and to help them formulate their ideas into writing or an illustration. For younger students, you may need to have them dictate their sentence to you or write a caption beneath their illustration. Prompt students who are having difficulty generating a journal entry with questions, such as those suggested in Step 4.

6. Use the Journal Entry and Doodle Splash Analysis rubric to assess your students' initial understanding of the story.

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Session 2: Picture Walk and Student Response

1. Revisit the story of Amazing Grace by taking a picture walk through the book. Show each illustration and have students retell the story and discuss what is happening in each picture.

2. Pair up students to work on the Amazing Grace Response Prompt Sheet. When pairing students, consider reading, writing, and verbal abilities as well as cultural backgrounds. Try to create as many heterogeneous pairings as you can to help encourage discussion and different ideas. Meet with each pair while they are working on the response sheet to answer questions or refocus their efforts as necessary.

3. Gather students together as a whole class to share their responses. Provide time for each student in the pair to share one thing. Students will have more time to discuss their responses in the next sessions.

4. Gather all the response prompt sheets and read through them. Make a note of reactions, thoughts, or ideas that seem worth discussing with the whole class.

Note: Before the next session, transfer all the questions from the response prompt sheets onto one page and make a copy for each small group. These are the questions that students will use to guide their small-group conversations in the next session. Also, decide who will be in each group of four to five students. Create heterogeneous groups that reflect the different cultures, abilities, and genders in your class.

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Session 3: Small-Group Conversations

1. Tell students that in this session they are going to have a conversation about Amazing Grace in small groups. Ask students to help you brainstorm a list of guidelines for their conversations, such as listening while others are speaking, respecting opinions and ideas of classmates, following the conversation and responding appropriately, disagreeing politely, and finding evidence in the book to support your answers. Write down their ideas on the board or on chart paper. When you think students have exhausted the list of possible conversation guidelines, ask them to narrow it down to the three most important ones. These will be the rules for conversations in small group; post these rules in a prominent place where everyone can see them.

2. Pass out the list of questions that students generated while working on the Amazing Grace Response Prompt Sheet. Read through the list of questions with the class. Explain to students that they will be discussing these questions during their small-group conversations and that they should follow the discussion procedure below:
  • Each person will take a turn asking a question in their small group. The person asking the question will call on people who are signaling to answer the question. Students can enter into the conversation by giving their answer to the question, responding to others who have answered the question, sharing a connection that is relevant to the question, or finding evidence in the book to help answer the question.

  • Before moving on, the group will evaluate the question just discussed. They will put a check mark beside questions that generated little discussion and a star beside questions that really got the group talking.

  • Once the group has finished discussing and evaluating a question, the person to the left of the current questioner becomes the new questioner.
3. Before sending small groups out on their own, have the whole class gather in a large circle and model how you would like the conversations to go by asking the first question on the list and discussing together. Once the class has finished discussing the question, evaluate the conversation and decide together whether the question should have a check mark or star placed beside it.

4. Divide the class into their small groups and assign them a place in the classroom to have their own conversations. Since you have already discussed the first question as a whole class, the small groups should start on the second question on the list. If possible, provide a copy of Amazing Grace for each group to refer to as they are discussing.

5. Give students 15 to 20 minutes to converse. Try to sit with each group for a few minutes. Listen and add to the conversation, redirecting it if needed. Use the Shared Discussion Observation Table to make notes of any interesting conversations that you heard or themes that recurred in each small group.

Note: If this is the first time your students have met in discussion groups, expect the class to be a little loud and to have some management challenges. Stay patient, remind students of their conversation guidelines, and remember that they are learning something new. Literature discussions will become more fruitful and focused as students practice them throughout the year. For a related lesson plan, see Give Them a Hand: Promoting Positive Interaction in Literature Circles.

6. After small groups have had enough time to discuss, gather the class together. Have each group share one success and one challenge with their small-group conversation. Ask each group to give you their list of questions with stars and check marks.

Note: Before the next session, compile a list of only the starred questions and ideas that you would like to follow up on in the whole-class discussion

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Session 4: Whole-Class Discussion

1. Begin this session by telling students that you heard many interesting conversations as you listened in on the small groups and that you would like to follow up on some of the ideas. Remind students of the conversation guidelines that they created in the previous session (see Session 3, Step 1).

2. This is a time for you to facilitate deeper discussion on some of the major themes touched on in the book and in the small-group conversations. Below are some themes from Amazing Grace and possible conversations that students might have had in the previous session:
  • Gender: Why did Grace want a role that a boy usually played? Is it okay for girls to do things that boys normally do? This conversation might lead into topics like girls in sports or in different jobs and how students view the roles of boys and girls.

  • Diversity: Not only is Grace a girl, but she is black and wants to play the part of a white boy. Students might discuss fairness or prejudices that people have. This conversation might lead into discussion about people who are different in ways besides skin color such as disabilities, language, and family life.

  • Courage: What does it say about Grace that she went ahead and tried out for the part? What are some words to describe her character? Have you ever experienced anything like this? How do you think she felt doing something that everyone thought was unusual or even wrong? What would you have done in her place? How would the story have been different if Grace was shy or doubted herself?

  • Family: Grace's mother and grandmother were supportive of her decision and encouraged her to try out for the part. How would the story have been different if Grace's family had not encouraged her? Has your family ever given you courage to do something? How has your family helped you?
This is not an extensive list. Your students might have discussed other thoughts or ideas relevant to the book that you want to touch on during this conversation.

3. Because the class will be discussing some difficult concepts, it is important to facilitate and guide the conversation so that all students feel heard and respected. Here are some ways to handle difficult conversations:
  • Restating biased or unfair remarks: If a student says something that is clearly pointed at another student or is an unfair remark about a group of people, try to reframe their statement in a nonthreatening way, such as, "What I hear John saying is that....", or "Another way to say that is...."

  • Validating and affirming: Try to value a variety of responses and ideas. If someone has an opinion in the class that is different from everyone else's, affirm that student by saying something like, "Thank you for sharing. The fun part about a discussion is hearing everyone's ideas." Another response would be, "I hadn't thought of it like that. Your experience helps me understand why you think that."

  • Guiding students to expand on their thinking: Keep the conversation going by encouraging students to expand or explain their thinking, by saying things like "Can you explain that a little more?" or "Okay, good start. Now keep going with that idea."
4. The whole-class discussion should last as long as your students express interest. When you notice that students are fidgeting or not paying attention, end the discussion and ask students to expand on an idea discussed in class by illustrating or writing about it in their journal. Meet with students who did not get an opportunity to share with the whole class; listen to their ideas and help them formulate a journal entry. For younger students or struggling readers, you may want them to dictate their thoughts to you.

5. Collect the journal entries to read. Use the Journal Entry and Doodle Splash Analysis rubric to assess students' comprehension of the themes in Amazing Grace. If time permits, write a short note back to students to encourage more thought or journal writing.

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Session 5: Doodle Art

This session should take place in your school's computer lab if you do not have enough classroom computers.

1. Ask students to bring their Amazing Grace Response Prompt Sheets and their journal entries from previous sessions. Explain that you would like students to think back to their small-group conversations, the whole-class discussion, their response prompt sheets, and their journal entries and choose the most important idea that they want to remember about Amazing Grace.

2. Share with students that they will use the interactive Doodle Splash to illustrate and write about this memorable idea. Take students to the computer lab and model how to use the online tool.
  • Students should summarize the part in the book that best relates to their most important idea in the Summary of the Text section. For example, a student might choose Grace getting the part of Peter Pan as the most important idea, so that summary might read, "Grace tried out and got chosen for the part of Peter Pan."

  • Student should then use the mouse and drawing tools to illustrate the memorable idea.

  • Students should explain their doodle, such as "I drew Grace wearing the Peter Pan costume and put stars all around her."

  • Finally, students should write about the significance of the doodle to the text or the important idea they want to remember. For example, "Grace showed everyone that she could do it. I like that Grace was brave and didn't care what people thought."
3. Have students print their completed doodles. Find a place in the room where the printouts can be displayed to help students remember their conversations about the book.

4. Use the Journal Entry and Doodle Splash Analysis rubric to determine whether students were able to identify and understand the most important themes in Amazing Grace.

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Have students go to Mary Hoffman's website and explore her inspiration for Grace.

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Teacher assessments

Student reflections

  • Students evaluate the kinds of questions that generate good discussion in their small-group conversations.

  • Students reflect on the important ideas in Amazing Grace through journal entries and the interactive Doodle Splash activity.

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